Carroll: Gay valedictorian’s canceled speech a lesson in disguise
Most people outside of Longmont probably weren’t aware of the existence of B.J. Buchmann, the principal at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School, until recently. Now, though, Buchmann is practically a household name, even if it’s only because he’s regarded as highly as such luminaries as Kim Jong Un and Justin Bieber.
By refusing to allow Twin Peaks 2015 valedictorian Evan Young to deliver the commencement speech because it doubled as a coming-out announcement, Buchmann joined a laundry list of people in positions of power who seem perversely delighted in wringing out every last drop of authority in their job description. These are usually the same people who also are the last ones to really (if ever) understand that just because flexing your muscles is technically permitted, that doesn’t necessarily make it right, better or not morally questionable.
While Young conceded to most of the edits to his speech that Buchmann demanded, he still learned an hour before the ceremony that not only could he not publicly divulge his status as a young gay man, but he couldn’t give his speech at all or be recognized as valedictorian, either.
“One of my themes is that I was going to tell everyone my secrets,” Young told Boulder’s Daily Camera. “Most of the things were stupid. My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that.”
The school claims that having Young come out at the May 16 graduation would have ruined “the solemnity of the evening” by not preserving and protecting the mission of the school. However, “Character First” is among the hallmarks of Twin Peaks’ philosophy: “Through our character education, our students become engaged, responsible and compassionate leaders.” That makes it even more puzzling how the most high-profile graduate was forced to disengage in such a capricious and unsympathetic manner. Adding insult to injury was Buchmann, a person inarguably in a position of trust, acting as Young’s unauthorized messenger by outing him to his dad prior to the ceremony.
A statement to the press from the school’s Board of Education also contradicted their own logic by saying that canceling Young’s speech wasn’t due to his lack of character but instead because it pushed his “personal agenda.” (Raise your hand if you shudder at the suggestion that a teenage boy bravely identifying as gay for the first time might be doing so for the sake of pushing some sort of sinister plan.)
When the news of Young’s story reached the Rev. Luke Grobe, a pastor at Longmont’s United Church of Christ, the Daily Camera said he asked, “Are our schools in place to support the students for who they are there, or are our schools in place to prevent our students from being who they are?”
Perhaps, though, Buchmann actually served a much larger — and loftier — purpose by telling Young that, despite his 4.5 GPA and other stellar credentials, he couldn’t serve as valedictorian if it meant publicly disclosing his sexual orientation. Moreover, it would seem that Buchmann did not only Young a favor but the entire class of 2015, too.
Even though Young’s earned moment in the sun was replaced by a s— storm, the unintended consequence is that he and his classmates ended up on the receiving end of a lesson that some never fully grasp, no matter their age, status or stage in life: Just because someone’s the boss, they’re not necessarily better, smarter or correct. By not allowing Young to speak, there’s a better-than-decent chance that his classmates will now leave high school for college or career having learned from his glaring absence on the podium that you can’t and shouldn’t rely on others to feel adequate or worthy.
Being rejected, fired, let go, removed, dumped, released or otherwise dismissed from a work or personal relationship hardly ever feels pleasant or freeing at the moment it transpires, although with any hope, it’ll put you one step closer to where and with whom you belong. You do you, and as long as at least part of you is kind, generous and considerate, more good than bad is bound to come your way.
Oh, and Young and his peers also might take away this from his aborted address: Even if you live in a blue part of a state that’s historically red, beware. Just because something appears one way on paper, that doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll manifest itself in real life. Never feel obligated to stay where you are if you’re made to feel uncomfortable or less than what you know you’re worth. There’s a reason moving trucks, roommates and ramen noodles are readily available.
More at http://www.meredithcarroll.com.
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